The Rugby World Cup has finally started for Owen Farrell.
Winger Henry Arundell scored a record-tying five tries for England in his Rugby World Cup debut as newcomers Chile were sliced apart 71-0 on Saturday.
England’s highest score in 20 years featured 11 tries, eight of them converted by captain Owen Farrell, who closed to within one point of Jonny Wilkinson’s England all-time points record of 1,179.
Criticised for the poor quality of its game at the Rugby World Cup, England excited with flair, pace, and clinical finishing for a third straight win in Pool D and all but secured a spot in the quarter-finals.
England will need to beat Samoa in two weeks in their last pool game.
England’s approach to an historic first meeting with the lowest-ranked team in the tournament was to put away the boot and run at the Chileans. The passes flowed freely on a sunny afternoon, with England players resorting to kicking only to create attacks and tries.
Arundell became the fourth player in England’s history to score five tries in a game, and the first since Josh Lewsey at the 2003 Rugby World Cup against Uruguay.
“I can’t believe it, it’s a bit surreal,” Arundell said. “I finished the game and thought, ‘How did that happen?’ It shows a real depth in this team and there are aspirations to attack and score tries. It depends on the team we are playing and the circumstances and the conditions.”
Marcus Smith, the flyhalf starting at fullback for the first time, scored two tries, as did hooker Theo Dan from lineout mauls. Prop Bevan Rodd and flanker Jack Willis touched down in their Rugby World Cup debuts.
Farrell convinced in his first tournament appearance after a four-match ban for a dangerous tackle last month. He was one of 12 changes to the starting 15 that defeated Japan last weekend. Farrell tallied 16 points.
“I enjoyed it,” he said. “It’s always brilliant to pull this shirt on, but to do it in the fashion we did today and play some good rugby at times was good fun.”
He made his presence felt well before kick-off, shouting orders and gesturing directions as England warmed up for what was expected to be a lopsided contest.
England were clumsy in the early stages while Chile used scraps of possession to open up the English defence twice in the first 10 minutes. A measure of Chile’s initiative was keeping England scoreless for the first 20 minutes, until a lob pass by Farrell gave Arundell the first try.
Arundell was found unmarked again for England’s third try, and by halftime led 31-0.
Chile were organised, willing and never gave up in their first match against a Six Nations side. But Chile weren’t in England’s class, and their caused wasn’t helped when prop Matias Dittus received his second yellow card of the tournament in the 45th.
In his absence, England scored three tries, two more by Arundell from a grubber kick by Smith then off his own chip ahead.
Smith also set up Arundell for his fifth try in the 69th. He’s the fourth player in tournament history to score five-plus tries in a game after New Zealand’s Marc Ellis in 1995 and Australia’s Chris Latham and Lewsey in 2003.
Smith liked the view of the field from fullback.
“It’s giving me another perspective on the game,” he said. “I understand the frustrations of the outside backs when they don’t get the ball. I can see the spaces. When you have wingers out there that can score tries for fun it is a pleasure to play for me.”
Chile captain Martin Sigren was philosophical, saying they had come a long way but still had a way to go.
“It’s a tough lesson,” Sigren said. “Four years ago, we were getting the same result against Canada and the USA. We were losing games against Brazil. Four years later, look at us, we’re here, so I have to hold on to that.
“We will keep on working, maybe in four years the results will be different.”